Justinian Lane

Medical Errors Airways - One Plane Crash Every Day

Saw this article about medical malpractice and the following stuck out:

Kumar says he wrote the book to alert the public to the fact that 98,000 patient deaths occur as a result of medical errors in U.S. hospitals annually, and about half of them are preventable.

"This is the equivalent of losing one commercial jumbo jet airliner full of about 270 passengers each day," he says. "Think of it as Medical Errors Airways. It's got a lot of jetliners, and one is going down every day."

The deaths don't get the kind of public attention crashes do, in part because the medical system is shrouded in mystery, Kumar says.

Source: - Errors cause 98,000 hospital deaths

I've often had the idea of trying to get the funding to build a medical malpractice memorial wall like the Vietnam memorial... but with about 100k deaths per year, it would end up looking more like the Great Wall of China.  Seriously, can we work on lowering these deaths before we worry about things like damage caps?

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Posted at 2:54 PM, Jun 23, 2008 in Medical Malpractice | News
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This is one of the worst analogies I've ever heard. Forget apples to oranges, this is like comparing apples to cars.

Posted by: Adam | June 23, 2008 5:35 PM

Justinian: This 98,000 number has the credibility of Pravda claiming the Soviets invented lipstick and Coca-Cola.

1) It came from Harvard and the New England Journal, enemies of capitalism, of clinical care, and of clinicians. Feel free to repeat material by Stormfront. It would be less biased, and less engorged by animus.

2) You have to try to read the actual article from which the projected number originated. Several authors have JD's. They are motivated to overestimate malpractice.

3) The inter-rater reliability of ratings malpractice and causation were quite mediocre. They would be unacceptable for publication if the article did not promote the agendas of the authors and journal. Without good inter-rater reliability, the validity is open to question.

4) Many raters were trainees. They are not qualified to rate clinicians with Board certificates, and years of experience.

5) The raters underwent hours of lawyer indoctrination, making their under-qualified ratings even worse.

6) Ratings of causation, ratings of deviations from professional standards of due care were deemed tentative.

7) Save for wrong site surgery or hospital specific infections, or other clear iatrogenic injuries, most of the events were moot. Most of the deaths were in patients who were severely ill and moribund.

Still one should expect a life threatening error every day of a hospital stay. These should be addressed. They are covered up due to fear of litigation. They should induce a system change to prevent their recurrence or closure of the hospital wing until fixed.

Let's assume this article is completely correct. It proves torts does not work as a substitute for Deming and continual improvement process. This article damns torts more than hospital care.

As a patient, I do not want to spend time making a lawyer rich. I want the lawyer gone, and something far more demanding and effective than torts, Deming.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | June 23, 2008 5:45 PM

When shown a statistic about how many people die due to medical errors, fault the analogy. Nice!

Posted by: Justinian Lane | June 24, 2008 10:01 AM

The statistic is fine. The analogy is dumb.

Posted by: Adam | June 24, 2008 11:35 AM

Justinian: The statistic is faulty, inaccurate and unfair.

Even if accurate, its primary implication is that torts are failing to deter negligence. They may cause the cover up of information that could lead to a system change to prevent future error.

Given the volume of patients managed, this error rate remains dwarfed by the error rates of the lawyer, both the false positive and the false negative rate.

I never hear that addressed by you. Tortious lawyer incompetence is never mentioned here.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | June 25, 2008 7:06 AM